Healthy eating on a budget

Fresh produce at a Tallahassee Publix.
Photo Courtesy: Kiara Green

It’s so easy to run to places like McDonald’s or Wendy’s for a quick meal. It’s easily accessible and more importantly, it’s cheap. Most people, especially college students, find themselves eating fast food a lot more often than usual because you can get an entire meal for no more than six dollars. With delivery services being readily available, it’s easier for students to retrieve fast food.

Being a college student without any financial support is a struggle. Especially when you’re living on campus without access to necessities like freezers, stoves and ovens. This is another reason why many students prefer fast food over healthy eating. It’s what’s most convenient.

“We have Wingstop, Pizza, and Chic-Fil-a right here on campus,” said Theodore Harp, a Florida A&M University student. “It’s kind of hard to eat healthy when there’s so many good foods around you.”

According to the CDC, a poor diet among younger persons can lead to an increased risk for certain chronic health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Healthy eating plays a substantial role in preventing chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke, the three leading causes of death among adults 18 years old or younger.

Although fast food is easy, there are many ways to maintain a healthy diet as a college student.

It’s all about budgeting and prioritizing. Fresh and organic foods tend to go bad quicker, because there are little to no preservatives to prolong the expiration date. Therefore, it is recommended that you buy the food the day you’re going to cook or prepare it if not the day before. That’ll save you the time and money of replacing spoiled food.

Meal prepping is another way that helps make eating healthy more effective. Most people find that meal prepping helps to cut back on groceries as well as money spent on eating out.  Students that live on campus can meal prep at a friend’s home and take their food back to campus where they can store it in their refrigerators.

“I would always tell myself that I’m going to start eating better and stay away from junk but it’s so expensive to eat healthy,” said N’kyra Johnson, another FAMU student. “It’s so easy to go to fast food because for one, it’s cheap. For two, we don’t have to cook it ourselves. Many people don’t know how to cook and that’s another dilemma we face.”

For those that struggle with cooking, below is a perfect example of a healthy meal you can make right at home! You can find more healthy meals like these on Pinterest, Instagram and TikTok.

Chipotle Chicken Fajita Bowl

For the Chicken, you’ll need:

  • 1–1.5 lbs chicken breast
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon chipotle powder (based on your preference for heat)
  • 2 tbs avocado or olive oil
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Juice of half a lime

For The Cauliflower Rice, you’ll need

  • 4 cups riced cauliflower
  • ¼ cup chopped chilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Fajita Veggies, you’ll need

  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 1 tbs avocado or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin


  1. Mix ingredients for chicken marinade (oil, lime juice, chipotle powder, garlic salt, tomato paste) in a small bowl
  2. Pat chicken breasts dry with a paper towel and place in a freezer bag with marinade and massage bag to coat chicken. Set aside.
  3. Warm a pan on medium high heat and spray with cooking spray (I use Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Spray
  4. Add in riced cauliflower, garlic salt, salt and pepper to taste and sauté until cauliflower is tender (about 5-7 minutes).
  5. Mix cauliflower with lime juice and chopped cilantro in a bowl and set aside
  6. Keeping pan on medium high heat, add 1 tbs oil and sliced onions. Sauté for about 1-2 minutes
  7. Add sliced bell peppers, garlic salt and cumin to pan and sauté until veggies are tender but crisp (about 4-5 minutes). Set aside.
  8. Add additional oil to pan if needed and cook chicken for 4-5 minutes per side (depending on thickness) or until no longer pink
  9. Assemble bowls with chicken, cauliflower rice and fajita vegetables
  10. Garnish with lime, cilantro and avocado if desired.

Below is the direct link to this easy- to- make recipe!

Chipotle Chicken Fajita Bowls (Whole30, Paleo, Keto, Easy Meal Prep)